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Rumors reach fever pitch but LA Schools superintendent Deasy denies he's resigned

Supt. Deasy dark

Jed Kim

Supt. John Deasy addresses school leaders during the annual LAUSD Administrators' Meeting.

Rumors of the impending resignation of Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy reached a fever pitch Thursday night, after media reports circulated that he had told school board members he was stepping down.

Deasy has responded to at least two media outlets that he has not tendered his resignation, but did not address the rumors of whether he would soon do so.

“I have not resigned. Have not submitted letter of resignation,” Deasy said in a text message to Ed Source, an online news organization focusing on California education policy.

Deasy gave the same limited statement to the L.A. Daily News. He did not return KPCC's requests for comments.

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L.A. Unified spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry told KPCC Friday morning that Deasy would not be making any more statements on the matter until next week, when the board is set to consider full rollout of Deasy's iPad project, as well as review his performance.

"Nothing until Tuesday," said Pollard-Terry.

Board members also declined to speak further on Friday morning.

Seven television media trucks camped out at district headquarters in downtown Los Angeles all morning, with camera crews standing around awaiting a formal statement from Deasy.

It is certainly a trying time for Deasy, a fast-talking New Englander who sees change in the nation's second-largest school district as urgent. He walks around with a printout of the district's latest vital statistics, including its under-70 percent graduation rate.

Yet he faces a split board that does not uniformly agree with his policies. His initiative to put an iPad in the hands of every student and teacher is under intense scrutiny with reports of glitches, security breeches and increased costs.

Rumors have swirled

Rumors of Deasy's resignation have swirled repeatedly since this summer. The first touch-off was the board's selection of Richard Vladovic as its president — Vladovic and Deasy have in the past disagreed on policy.  Deasy responded with a statement that he was looking forward to working with the board.

Speculation began again less than two months ago, when Jaime Aquino, the district's head of instruction, resigned, saying the board was stifling key reforms. But Deasy stayed on.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Los Angeles Times published a story based on unnamed sources saying Deasy had told board members he would resign effective February. It quoted Vladovic's spokesman saying the board member was surprised.

In a brief email Thursday night, Sarah Bradshaw, chief of staff for board member Bennett Kayser, indicated Deasy's resignation was imminent.

"True," she wrote. "Mas manana."

Reached on his cellphone Thursday night, board member Steve Zimmer said he knew nothing about it.

"I have not received any type of notice of resignation from the superintendent," he said.

Board member Monica Ratliff told the Daily News also said that if he was resigning, it was news to her, too. And within a few hours, the L.A. Times published an updated article, including Deasy's denials.

Still, the reports quickly rippled through education circles.

Warren Fletcher, head of United Teachers Los Angeles and one of Deasy's biggest critics, gave numerous interviews and put out a statement celebrating the news.

"It was very clear that the Superintendent's view of where resources need to go was somewhat skewed," Fletcher said. "We as educators made our opinion on that very clearly."

Deasy's allies

Deasy has lost a number of allies in the past year. Antonio Villaraigosa left the mayor's office, and Nury Martinez, one of his supporters, left the school board to run for Los Angeles City Council.

The Coalition for School reform — which is in line with Deasy's policies — led costly but ultimately unsuccessful efforts both to fill Martinez's slot and unseat Steve Zimmer, a moderate backed by UTLA. Zimmer ultimately prevailed, and Martinez was replaced by Ratliff, a school teacher and UTLA member, who defeated the coalition's candidate.

Deasy's staunchest supporter, Monica Garcia, had served six consecutive one-year terms as board president, but that came to an end this year when a new rule written by her critics prohibited her from another term. Garcia had advocated for the approval of more charter schools and pushed for a revised teacher evaluation that included student test scores.

In July, the board chose Vladovic, a former teacher, principal and administrator, as its president. Vladovic has since launched a number of new oversight committees to increase the board's role in setting policy, rather than simply voting the Superintendent's policies up or down.

Deasy became superintendent in April 2011, about a year after he was hired as Deputy Superintendent. The board unanimously approved a contract extension last October. 

He succeeded Ramon Cortines, who was criticized for being slow to reform the nation's second-largest school district, and who presided over years of shrinking budgets.

He had been superintendent of a number of smaller school districts, including Santa Monica-Malibu. Prior to his tenure at L.A. Unified, Deasy was Deputy Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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